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240                                                                                                            B. POLEVOI
littered with flower stalks and petals. Hearing Alexei's
footsteps she started forward eagerly, but seeing that he
was not alone she suddenly seemed to wilt,
"Let's go to say good-bye to the wood," proposed Alexei
in a nonchalant tone.
They linked arms and walked in silence down the old
avenue of lime-trees. At their feet, on the moonlit ground,
coal-black shadows followed them, and here and there
the first autumn leaves glistened like scattered coins. They
reached the end of the avenue, went through the gates and
walked over the grey, wet grass to the lake. The hollow
was covered with a blanket of fleecy mist that looked like
a white sheepskin. The mist clung to the earth and, reach-
ing their waists, breathed and shone mysteriously in the
cold moonlight. The air was damp and impregnated
with the sated smell of autumn. It was cool and even
chilly one moment and warm and close another, as if
this lake of mist had warm and cold currents of its
own----
"Looks as though we are giants walking above the
clouds, doesn't it?" said Alexei pensively, uneasily feeling
the girl's strong little arm tightly pressed against his
elbow.
"Not giants, but fools. We'll wet our feet and catch cold
for our journey," growled Struchkov, who seemed to be
absorbed in his own mournful reflections.
"I have the advantage over you there. I have no feet
to wet, and so I can't catch cold," said Alexei laughing.
"Come on, come on! It must be very nice there now!"
urged Zinochka, pulling them towards the mist-covered
lake.
They almost blundered into the water and stopped short
in amazement when it suddenly loomed black through the
wisps of mist right at their feet. Near by was a small jetty
with a rowboat faintly outlined in the darkness. Zinochka
fluttered off into the mist and returned with a pair of oars.
They fixed the rowlocks, Alexei took the oars, and Zino-
chka and the major sat in the stern. The boat glided slowly
through the still water, now plunging into the mist and
now appearing in open water, the black, polished surface
of which was generously silvered with moonlight. No
one spoke, all were absorbed in their own thoughts. The